Outdoor Lore and the Lure of a Good Cup of Coffee

Autumn … let that sink in for brief moment.

Dense fog and moisture in the air, dewy wetness on all things still green and those turning color too.Rusting leafy foliage falling away baring their now stark treed host. Dried corn plants shuffling their crinkly leaves await the harvesters blade and the pale early morning sky fuzzy misted over as the sun begins to burn through with a cool and bright effort. And pumpkins dotting this or that field or ornamenting this or that farmer stand or door steps.

Yup, it’s fallish out there folks.

And I’ve got a hankerin’ to be out there, to spend time in the thinning woods. Where green turns to rust and mushrooms show themselves off against the leaf littered forest floor, some pretty, some ugly and all of them fascinating.

Yesterday I gave in to that hankering and hunkered down the evening before to prepare my daypack for a short day trip into the local deciduous woods. The air felt fresher, the temperatures chillier and my step quicker so as to generate a bit more body temperature even though my wool mix hoodie kept me snug and warm.

It being a Saturday morning, the forest lanes and roadways (this is Germany and the woods are crisscrossed with ‘Waldwege’) were empty. I had the place mostly to myself. And as I often do, I wondered where the wild boars were. But most of all I was anticipating my first cup of outside coffee.

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goodness (ciaodarlingciao.wordpress.com)

If you’ve ever made a delicious cup of hot coffee outside you may know the pleasure I speak of. No, not a cup of instant crap but the real ma-coy, boiling water poured into a coffee filter over a large cup. The result a brew so good that it nearly blends into the surrounding beauty. Ah ok, so the heady scent of a freshly brewed cup of java out there is kinda out of place as it were but it does the body good. If you prefer a good hot cup of tea would also do the trick I suppose but coffee is my choice for moments like that.

I spent some time looking around and gathering a bit of firewood, smallish bits and processed them into suitable sizes to accommodate my Bush Box multi fuel pocket stoves’ small size and then set to building the fire that would boil the water that would release the intense flavored coffee into my cup and then my mouth. It took a little while but the time spent doing the work was well worth the efforts.

Bush Box

By the time my cup was filled, the sun had begun to shine on the spot I’d selected for the coffee ritual.

I sat back and just liked being there.

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Improv Recipe Modification

So, the last time I was in Germany; well the time before the last time too, I was turned on to a particularly delightful summery dish. Boiled potatoes with Ziger, a kind of ‘white cheese’ called Quark. It is creamy with a slightly sour flavor and here in Canada I have not yet found anything similar. Not enough Germans here perhaps? or I’ve possibly not yet found the place to buy it.

What delighted me so when I first tasted it was that simple garden herbs like chives, parsley and onions, a bit of garlic, salt and pepper to taste are mixed with this simple creamy white cheese and then served with lovely German boilded potatoes (perhaps you know what I mean) that are also dusted with sprinkles of parsley. A piece of potato on your fork, a generous dab of Ziger applied with your knife and pop that into your mouth. You won’t be sorry.

That is until you try to repeat that by making it yourself here on the North American side of the big Atlantic pond. Ok, you might be on of those smart asses who makes the stuff yourself. I’ve not attempted that yet, but I won’t shy away from it when the urge strikes next time.

Since my last trip to Germany I’ve recreated this dish improv style twice, the last time last night. My dinner guest and outspoken food critic (my daughter) blew my mind when she declared it to be the best tasting potato salad she’d ever tried. I was all smiles, and on to something good.

I had a craving for garden greens, potatoes and something cool on a warm summers evening and so I set to work. Knowing I couldn’t find Quark in my local shopping hangouts I decided to ‘make do’ with what I could find. That consisted of plain yogurt, cottage cheese and sour creme. I plopped those ingredients into a bowl and then got to chopping green onions, shallots, cilantro, a few basil leaves and a bunch of radishes, which I diced. I stopped short of throwing a cucumber into the mix although that mini Japanese variety would be a delightful adition. But enough with the evolving mutation.

Quickly blend all of the ingredients in a large enough bowl to hold the mass comfortably and let it chill in the fridge. I find that the flavor the next morning/day is much richer and enjoyable, so if you can let the mixture stand overnight.

Serve your potatoes warm arranged around the edge of a large plate with a generous dollop of the dairy/garden greens combination. It makes for a  simple, satisfying and lovely summery dish. Mine just happened to turn into a potato salad because I tossed them with the dairy/greens mixture. Soooo good and I can’t wait to do it again this summer some time.

Photo? No, so sorry I ate the subject/prop 😉 you’ll have to use your imaginations. Next time, hehe

Here are a few other recipes using Ziger: http://www.kaeserei-neudorf.ch/de/kaese/ziger/rezepte.html

From Wikipedia:

The cheese is also known simply as “white cheese” (Polish: ser biały, Lithuaninan: Baltas sūris, southern Germany: Weißkäse or weißer Käs, Hebrew: Gvina Levana גבינה לבנה, Serbian: beli sir), as opposed to any rennet-set “yellow cheese”.

The name comes from the Late Middle High Geman Quark, which in turn is derived through twarcquarczwarg from the Lower Sorbian Slavic tvarog, (Polish twaróg, Belarusian тварог, Russian творог, and Czech and Slovak tvaroh, which means “curd”. In Austria, the name Topfen (pot cheese) is used. In Flanders, it is called plattekaas (flat cheese), while the Dutch use the name kwark. In Norway, Denmark and Sweden, it is called kvark.

In Germany, quark is sold in small plastic tubs and usually comes in three different varieties, Magerquark (lean quark, virtually fat-free), “regular” quark (20% fat) and Sahnequark (creamy quark, 40% fat) with added cream. While Magerquark is often used for baking and as health food, e.g. as a breakfast spread, Sahnequark also forms the basis of a large number of quark desserts. Much like yoghurts in some parts of the world, these treats mostly come with fruit flavouring (Früchtequark, fruit quark), and are often also simply referred to as quark. As the large popularity of quark desserts is limited to mainly the German-speaking and central European countries, confusion might arise when talking about quark with people unfamiliar with cuisine from this area.

The name comes from the Late Middle High Geman Quark, which in turn is derived through twarcquarczwarg from the Lower Sorbian Slavic tvarog, (Polish twaróg, Belarusian тварог, Russian творог, and Czech and Slovak tvaroh, which means “curd”. In Austria, the name Topfen (pot cheese) is used. In Flanders, it is called plattekaas (flat cheese), while the Dutch use the name kwark. In Norway, Denmark and Sweden, it is called kvark.

In Finnish it is known as rahka, while in Estonian as kohupiim (foamy milk). In Latvian it is called biezpiens (thick milk). The French-language word for it is seré, but it is most commonly called fromage blanc.

Quark is possibly described by Tacitus in his book Germania as lac concretum (thick milk), eaten by Germanic peoples.

In the US quark is called simply farmer’s cheese in the midwest.

In southern Germany it is known as: Weißkäse or weißer Käs (White Cheese)